Life Tech Laptop trends: smaller, more powerful, bendable

Laptop trends: smaller, more powerful, bendable

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It’s not enough any more for a laptop to just be portable. Nowadays, they have to be small, light, quick and bendable so they can be variously put to use as laptops, tablets or stand-up monitors.

“The trend with notebooks is clearly in the direction of a hybrid device,” said Sandra Schwarz, who reviews laptops for Stiftung Warentest, a German consumer goods tester.

These new trends were on display at IFA, a recent Berlin trade fair showing developments in the electronics industry.

In addition to ingenious new joints for laptops, there’s something else that will clearly soon be an industry standard on the devices: full HD screens.

Lenovo’s reworked ThinkPad Helix is one of the hybrid devices Schwarz cites. The 30cm business ultra-book with a full-HD display can be easily taken apart at the hinge and used as a tablet. Turn the display around 180 degrees and it can be used as a small monitor.

Inside, it contains hardware usually seen in bigger notebooks.

Depending upon the kind of keyboard used, it can run for up to 12 hours. It should hit markets in October.

For those not focused on power, not mobility, Lenovo also brought the Flex 2 Pro to IFA. The 40cm notebook has a display that can be rotated 300 degrees. It can be set up easily for viewing films, in such a way that the keyboard is not in the way. It is expected in stores before the end of 2014.

Touch-screens are also getting to be standard, as evidenced by the items on display.

“The touch-screen will keep on making its presence felt,” says Schwarz. “Especially with the ultrabooks, but also with the larger notebooks.”

The interplay between keyboard, finger gestures and wiping motions is quickly becoming easier. That becomes clear using Toshiba’s Radius 11. The 1.3kg, 30cm notebook with an HD screen makes use of its special hinge to quickly convert to a tablet controlled by finger gestures.

A lot of manufacturers are also edging into the world of gaming.

However, these devices tend to be bigger and heavier, with shorter battery lives.

Acer’s Aspire V Nitro notebooks, which come in 38cm and 43cm, bring enough power for 3D games thanks to their Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. They also have up to 16 gigabytes of memory and Geforce graphics cards.

“Powerful gaming notebooks are busily doing away with the PC as a gaming machine,” says Schwarz.

Cloud-books, meanwhile, focus less on power and more on mobility and connectivity. These notebooks tend to come with comparatively less powerful hardware and memory.

Their strengths lie in their ability to connect to the internet with wi-fi and mobile phone networks. Acer and Toshiba showcased their Chromebook 13 and Chromebook 2, notebooks with longer battery lives that rely upon Google’s cloud computing service. Both can be had with a full HD screen.

HP came to the IFA with its Chromebook 14, which uses Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor and a UMTS modem. It is expected to go one sale in 2015.